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‘The Heartbreak Kid’ and ‘Sleuth’: Why You Won’t Be Able to Celebrate Their 50th Anniversaries

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‘The Heartbreak Kid’ and ‘Sleuth’: Why You Won’t Be Able to Celebrate Their 50th Anniversaries

For its 50th anniversary, we will be treated to a theatrical re-release of Francis Ford Coppola’s Oscar winning masterpiece The Godfather, along with 4K remasters of the entire trilogy on home video. 1972 brought us a whole host of terrific films we get to commemorate for their golden anniversaries. We have Bob Fosse’s genre redefining movie musical Cabaret, Peter Bogdanovich’s ode to the screwball comedies of the 1930s with What’s Up, Doc?, John Boorman’s harrowing survival film Deliverance, Sydney Pollack’s endlessly memed Jeremiah Johnson, and even the blockbuster adult film breakthrough Deep Throat. All of these films are easily accessible with the click of a button. You may have to shell out a few dollar rental fee for them, but they are there for you to watch.

Two exceptional films hitting their 50th anniversaries this year will be incredibly difficult to celebrate because of their lack of availability. Those films are the Elaine May directed black comedy classic The Heartbreak Kid and Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s delightful chamber piece thriller Sleuth. Both of these films have no streaming presence, whether that be on a particular service or for purchase, and they have no physical media release. If you want to be able to commemorate these films, you either have to find a bootleg rip of them on YouTube or purchase unreasonably expensive out of print or imported DVDs.

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How could something like this happen? The Heartbreak Kid and Sleuth are not particularly obscure films. May’s film was written by beloved playwright Neil Simon and stars Charles Grodin, Cybil Shepherd, Jeannie Berlin, and Eddie Albert, the latter two receiving Academy Award nominations for their performances. Sleuth received even more Oscar nominations with four, with Mankiewicz nabbing for Best Director, John Addison‘s exuberant score, and for its two lead actors Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine (heard of ’em?). In 2007, each of them even received their own terrible remakes. These movies are not ones that have simply fallen through the cracks, and no one has thought about them. So, why can they not be seen?


The Heartbreak Kid and Sleuth, released just a week apart from each other in December 1972, were both produced by a company called Palomar Pictures International. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, production companies were popping up all over the place with the rise of the New Hollywood, where it was viable for a small film that cost very little to end up making a good chunk of change at the box office. Palomar Pictures International was a subsidiary of the American Broadcasting Company that formed in 1968. Just on year later, Palomar dissolved its relationship with ABC, and naturally, a pharmaceutical company became the majority stakeholder. You read that correctly. Bristol-Myers (now Bristol-Myers Squibb), a pharmaceutical company, wanted to get in on the film producing business. Even though Palomar stopped after a couple of years, with their final theatrical film being the original 1975 The Stepford Wives, the rights to those films still are held by that pharmaceutical company.


What complicates matters further here is not every Palomar Pictures International film has met the same fate as The Heartbreak Kid and Sleuth. Palomar also produced The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and that films is easily accessible through digital rentals and has a very nice Blu-ray release. Sydney Pollack‘s Oscar winning film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? currently has a Blu-ray but absolutely no digital presence. The aforementioned The Stepford Wives is only available to watch on Tubi. There is absolutely no consistency to how any of their films are handled. Presumably, these varying outcomes come from the deals Palomar struck up with the different distributors.

RELATED: ‘Breathless’ to ‘La Strada’: 10 Hidden Gem Classic Films on HBO Max

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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three was distributed by United Artists, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by the Cinerama Releasing Corporation, and The Stepford Wives by Columbia Pictures. Each company negotiated its own deal with Palomar for how those films could be released. The Heartbreak Kid and Sleuth were both distributed by 20th Century Fox, and it seems the deal they struck was not all that beneficial to Fox for getting these films out into the world for people to see. As for renegotiating those deals, that seems to be a nonstarter. There is not a lot of profit to be found in the re-releasing of two old movies, not to mention the cost they would have to put in on properly restoring them for a decent release of any kind. Bristol-Myers Squibb, being a large pharmaceutical company, can outgross whatever those two movies would make from digital rentals without ever lifting a finger. Financially, there is not much reason for them to even acknowledge those pictures, even if giving them the opportunity for a proper platform would be culturally and artistically enriching for the world.


In the streaming era, we are certainly spoiled for choice. People spend half an hour scrolling through various services looking for something to watch, and sometimes, all they do is scroll and never end up watching anything. Because we subscribe to so many streamers, from Netflix to Hulu to HBO Max to Criterion Channel to Shudder to whatever your wallet can handle, we have this sense that anything our heart desires is just a click away. Gate keeping has been eradicated, and the Internet has democratized every piece of media. Of course, this could not be further from the truth. Large swaths of film history are completely absent from digital platforms and physical media. You may have the option to endlessly scroll and find something to watch, but if you are looking for something specific, you may not always find it.

The Heartbreak Kid and Sleuth are truly great cinematic achievements, and if you have the means to procure difficult to track down copies of them, you absolutely should. These films not only are high watermarks of their respective genres, but they have been immensely influential works for filmmakers today. Without Sleuth, you would not have something like Rian Johnson‘s superb murder mystery Knives Out (which even features a prop from Sleuth), and without The Heartbreak Kid, who knows what the state of cringe comedy would look like today? Unfortunately, these films that should be receiving a ton of retrospective screenings, new home video releases, and celebratory articles written about them over the course of this year are becoming lost to time in an era when they should be available with the click of a button. A film being just as effective as it was 50 years ago is a remarkable achievement, and The Heartbreak Kid and Sleuth absolutely fit that bill. It is a real shame that more people will not be able to know that.

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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